The Comp world is abuzz with the potential of huge changes to the attorney’s fee provision, s. 440.34 (2003), via a Florida Supreme Court case that is to be heard on April 9th in Tallahassee.  In Murray v. Mariner Heath, the First DCA certified to the Supremes the following question, one being of great importance:

DO THE AMENDED PROVISIONS OF SECTION 440.34(1), FLORIDA STATUTES (2003), CLEARLY AND UNAMBIGUOUSLY ESTABLISH THE PERCENTAGE FEE FORMULA PROVIDED THEREIN AS THE SOLE STANDARD FOR DETERMINING THE REASONABLENESS OF AN ATTORNEY’S FEE TO BE AWARDED A CLAIMANT?

You can read the Murray brief here.  (The facts are very compelling.)  As for the Florida Legislature, they are not waiting for the Supremes to answer this question.  Senate Bill 2548, introduced at the start of this session, means to roll back the 2003 amendments to allow the JCC discretion over fee amount for benefits secured. 

The bill, sponsored by Republican Stephen Wise of Jacksonville, provides that if a “guideline fee” to a successful claimant’s attorney results in a fee less than that paid by the employer/carrier to its own attorney to defend the claim, then “the fee due to the claimant’s attorney shall be equal to the fee paid to the attorney for the employer or carrier or, in the alternative, a reasonable fee as determined by the Judge of Compensation Claims.” SB 2548, which includes also drastic changes to the one time change in physician provision and the obliteration of the EMA provision, was introduced on March 20th and referred to the appropriate committees.  The effective date of the bill, if passed, would be July 1.

If the Supremes strike down s. 440.34(1), the next question is: Will SB 2548 be pushed through both houses to have statutory language in place?

More to come. . . 

 

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